Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Skyping in Grades 1, 2 and 3

Yesterday I wrote about how the past few months has seen an explosion of blogs in our primary school.  Today I'm reflecting on another explosion - of the use of Skype in our grades 1, 2 and 3 classes.

Our Grade 1 students have been looking at different ways of communicating - it's part of our Where We Are in Place and Time unit of inquiry and students are inquiring into different methods of communication that depend on the purpose, the audience and the resources.  Our students already used email to send questions to students in other classes in Italy, the USA, Ghana, Singapore, South Africa and Tanzania.  Now they are skyping with those students to find out their answers.  Students are responsible for introducing themselves and asking their question of another student.  The fact that we have already sent the questions means that each student in our buddy classes has had time to think about and maybe research the answers for us, and has a little idea about the person they are going to talk to.  Each Grade 1 class therefore connects with one other class, and each students asks and receives one answer from a student in that class.

In Grade 2 we are also skyping - this time to find out how the weather affects us.  This is part of our How the World Works unit of inquiry.  This time we are not skyping other students but family members in different parts of the world (or in one case an old school teacher).  So far we have skyped 4 different people in Australia, Norway, the USA and Singapore.   For these calls the whole class participates - there are just 4 students asking questions and the others are taking photos, taking video or making notes. We are posting the photos and movies on the class page.

In Grade 3 they are skyping as part of their How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry into poetry and song.  These classes have had hour long skype calls with the poet Kenn Nesbitt.  They have found out how he started writing poetry and how he goes about writing poetry and have had a go at writing a poem with him!  They have brainstormed questions they want to ask as a class and each class has voted on the 5 "best" ones.  Students have many different roles - before the skype call they have been blogging and finding out where Mr Nesbitt is in the USA using Google Maps and Google Earth.  During the call some students have been greeters, others have been questioners and others have been responsible for taking notes, movie and video.  After the skype call other students blog, make slideshows and send the movies to YouTube - everyone is busy and everyone has a job to do.

Moving on from learning about poetry and what it is to be a poet, the students are now starting to become poets themselves.  They know the process Kenn Nesbitt goes through when writing his poems and now it's time for them to write their own.  They have composed music using GarageBand so that they see the connection between poetry and song, and they are about to start taking photos to go with their music that they will then write poems about.  The idea is that the music, photos and poems will be used in an Animoto slideshow (and we already have a few experts in the class who can teach the others how to do this as they learned how to do this already after the skype call) and students' artwork will be put with other poems they have written in VoiceThread so that all the students in the class can listen to each other's work, view each other's art and make their own comments.  In order to do this, students have all used Bitstrips to design their own avatar to use in VoiceThread.

I have loved the way that skype has been used to bring the world into our classrooms during the past couple of months and am excited to see how rich the learning has become.


  1. I love your ideas! We did something similar with Ken Nesbitt's poetry (http://mediaservices.solon.k12.ia.us/SCSDMediaServices/Site/Poetry_Blog/Poetry_Blog.html), but you took it to the next level.

  2. This is fantastic... as long as they are also coached in communicating with the person/people IRL ! I see so many kids finding it easier to talk via a screen than in person, it's sad. That skill set will give them so much advantage later on. Anyway, its great to read how you guys are using technology in class.

  3. Thanks for your comments - I agree we mustn't use technology instead of talking to real life people face to face - however I doubt we'd ever have got Kenn Nesbitt to visit our school in Switzerland, nor would we have been able to chat to an Australian farmer about the effects of the recent floods. When I worked in the UK it was often easy to get local visitors to come into school to talk to the students, but in international schools this is often not the case. For us skype has been invaluable - and what's more it's completely free!

  4. Fantastic uses for Skype! I am continually amazed at the opportunities that technology provides students.

  5. I think that SKYPE use is fantastic for the classroom and can build literacy skills rather than minimise them as the students plan what it is they wish to ask.
    I agree that speaking via computer might be comfortable for some it is a rather daunting task for others and these skills need to be developed.
    I would love for my Year 2 to further develop this form of Inquiry and communication, Where do you find your connections?

  6. Hi Steve,
    A great place to start is Around the World with 80 Schools: http://aroundtheworldwith80schools.wikispaces.com/
    I'm sure you will find a school eager to skype with your Year 2s.